Bachelor to Master of Accounting: Is one (or both) right for you?

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Accountants possess a highly sought-after skill set that every individual and company in America values: an understanding of tax law and how to manage finances.

Though technology has changed the way the accounting field looks, Accountants will likely always be in high demand. In fact, according to a recent jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,200 of the 211,000 jobs created in April 2017 were accounting and bookkeeping positions.

Once you decide on pursuing an accounting degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, you can feel confident that you’re on a good career track. The next thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want to enter the field after completing your bachelor’s or trek on ahead to obtaining a Master of Accounting. Either distinction is likely to bring you success—your choice is just a matter of your own career goals.

Accounting student reviews reports.

Beginning your career after getting your bachelor’s

When you graduate from UAB’s bachelor’s degree program, you’ll have taken 120 credits of classes related to accounting and general education. For most students, this is accomplished in four years. At this point, there are plenty of excellent career paths open to you.

Your Bachelor of science in accounting degree will help you get an entry-level position in management accounting. From there, you will learn more skills and gain experience to grow and expand your career.

Additionally, a four-year bachelor’s in accounting is a great first step in receiving the Certified Management Accountant distinction. The Institute of Management Accountants has recognized UAB as a leader in CMA exam preparation. This means that, as a graduate of this program, you’ll be ready to propel your career forward.

Pursuing your master’s at UAB

Even if you didn’t receive your bachelor’s in accounting at UAB—or even if you don’t have an accounting degree at all—you may be eligible for the UAB Master of Accounting program. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than accounting, you can take UAB’s accounting bridge program to get you up to speed on the basic accounting knowledge your classmates will have. This program consists of eight courses, totaling 24 credit hours.

The Master of Accounting program consists of 30 credit hours and can be completed in just a year and a half. Once you graduate from this program, you’re well on your way to being eligible to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam.

Earning the CPA distinction can be a wonderful career boost; it opens up new opportunities and often helps a person receive a salary increase. Each state has different requirements for people to become eligible to sit for the CPA exam. Most include a minimum of 150 credit hours of accounting coursework; at the end of both UAB’s bachelor and master’s programs, you’ll have reached this number.

Three-fourths of new master’s degree hires for CPA firms are individuals who earned their master’s in accounting according to a report from the American Institute of CPAs. And many industry professionals expect there to be increasing open positions as many talented CPAs move into retirement. A study by the American Institute of CPAs found that 75 percent of CPAs are expected to retire by 2030, Accounting Today reported. While many of these professionals may choose to offer their knowledge in a consultative capacity, this leaves many positions open for aspiring accountants to work toward.

CMA or CPA: Which should you aim for?

Earning your CPA is a common goal for accountants for reasons like career growth, salary benefits and professional distinction. However, these objectives can be reached with a CMA as well. Determining your career goals at the beginning of your college career—and assessing them along the way—can help you determine whether UAB’s bachelor or master in accounting program (or both) is the right fit for you.

If you determine that you want to strive for your CPA, UAB’s master’s program may be the best fit. However, if earning your CMA is your objective, the bachelor’s degree may be enough to give you a good start to a long and successful career.

Why pursue your CPA

Perhaps you went into accounting for your love of numbers, or maybe you know that accountants typically enjoy a decent salary. No matter your reasoning, one perk of earning your CPA is the payout. The median salary for an accountant with this certification is $86,443, according to PayScale. Robert Half Finance & Accounting stated that the public accounting field is expected to see salary growth of 3.8 percent in 2017.

Why pursue your CMA

Though earning your CMA might not increase your salary as much as the CPA may, it will still likely give you an income boost. According to PayScale, the median salary for an accountant with a CMA earns $57,750. Additionally, the Institute of Management Accountants reported that CMA holders are typically compensated 50 percent more than their peers who don’t have this distinction. Robert Half found that the corporate accountant field is expected to see a 3.7 percent salary growth in 2017.

Accountants with CMAs typically focus their careers on private companies rather than public accounting firms, according to Roger CPA Review. As such, if you’re much more interested in corporate finance than public finance, the CMA is probably the certificate for you, Robert Half Finance & Accounting pointed out.

Even if you’re interested in multiple areas of finance and accounting, a CMA could be helpful in the long run. pointed out that many professionals who have earned both find that the skills associated with their CMA are much more applicable to their careers than the knowledge connected to the CPA. Considering that close to 80 percent of accountants spend the bulk of their careers outside the realm of public accounting, the CMA may have further reaching benefits than the CPA in some cases.

The CMA is a uniform exam that is globally recognized, making it a bit more convenient than the CPA for someone who may want to move to a different state or country later on, according to Robert Half. The CPA is a state license; if you get your CPA in Alabama, then move to Texas, you’ll probably have to take the test again.

Doubling up: Why get the CPA and the CMA

It’s clear that both distinctions have their own perks. It’s this rationale that leads some professionals to pursue both distinctions. The combination will give you an even greater advantage in terms of professional opportunities, and will provide you with valuable knowledge that you’ll apply throughout your career.

No matter where your accounting journey leads, you’ll likely find that obtaining a bachelor or master’s degree (or both) is a strong basis upon which you can continue to grow.

UAB can help you find success in accounting

When you complete your accounting degree online or on campus at UAB, you’re on the right track to begin a successful career in accounting. Whether you choose to pursue your CMA, CPA, both or neither, you’ll have the groundwork for many rewarding careers in accounting. To learn more about UAB’s programs, schedule an appointment with an advisor today.

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